Construction Manager vs. Architects: What's the Difference?

Although construction management and architectural design both play a significant role in the building of residential homes, office buildings and apartment houses, there is a great deal of difference between the two disciplines. Education, training and licensure are just a few of the differences.

The Differences Between a Construction Manager and an Architect

Construction managers coordinate and schedule design and construction processes in the building of office complexes, residential homes, and industrial structures. They may be involved in the construction of highways, bridges, schools and hospitals. A construction manager approves and hires specialty contractors for operations such as plumbing, electrical wiring and framing. Construction managers usually work on a project from conception to completion. On large projects, they may be responsible for only one segment of the operation.

Architects design buildings and structures that not only look good but are safe, energy efficient and functional. An architect works with a client to set the parameters of the construction, such as construction objectives, budget and requirements of the structure. Architects often do pre-construction assessments to determine the feasibility of the project and any environmental impact the structure might have. When pre-construction assessment is complete, an architect will then develop the final construction plan, including construction details and building appearance. 

Education for a Construction Manager

The norm for a construction manager is a bachelor's degree in building science, construction engineering, construction management or civil engineering. Employers will look for a construction manager who has work experience, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

A Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and Management degree program teaches a student how to manage the construction process and coordinate the skilled trades necessary to complete a project. The degree program focuses on sustainable building practice, cost controls and the technical theory of construction. Topics covered may include building technology, design visualization, construction law, surveying and sustainable building practice. 

Education for an Architect

An architect requires more education to practice than a construction manager. Professional architectural degrees can be earned through a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degree program, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unlike most bachelor's degrees, this degree takes five years to complete and is designed for students with no previous architectural training.

Aspiring architects who have completed a bachelor's degree in another field or a pre-professional architectural bachelor's degree can opt for a master's degree in architecture to gain professional standing. A master's degree in architecture can take 1-5 years to complete. 

A pre-professional bachelor's degree teaches a student the basic concepts and skills required to study architecture at the graduate level. Topics covered in this degree program may include an introduction to structures, construction and design theories. Students explore energy, the environment and history of architecture. Design, presentation and professional practice are studied along with culture, society and building performance.

A Master in Architecture professional degree builds on knowledge learned in a pre-professional bachelor's degree program. Along with theory, technology, social aspects, the environment, history and professional practice, students develop design mastery through a series of design studio courses. A design thesis is required and students complete an internship in an architectural environment. A Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) professional degree, which combines the elements of the non-professional bachelor's and the Master of Architecture, has a thesis requirement and room for electives. 

Licensure and Certification Requirements

Construction managers are not required to be licensed and instead rely on years of experience to find positions in construction. Construction managers can earn voluntary certification from the Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Constructors

Architects are required to be licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To become licensed, an architect must complete a professional degree in architecture, serve an internship specified by the state and earn passing scores on the Architect Registration Examination.

The Difference in Salaries

According to in 2021, the aveage salary for a construction manager is $78,356 which includes bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. Also in 2021 the average salary for an architect is $67,077 including bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing. Salaries for both a construction manager and an architect vary according to geographical location, industry, skills, and years of experience.